Saturday, May 29, 2010

Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?

What stays with me:  The look of delight on my grandmother's face when she met Gary Coleman back stage, after a taping of "Diff'rent Strokes," the show my dad (Ben Starr) wrote and produced for many years.  The short Russian lady smiled shyly in Gary's presence.  She couldn't get over how cute he was, how talented and sweet. 

Yesterday, I called my dad.  "Sad," I said.  "Yep," he said.  Then we said goodbye.  He didn't want to dwell on the late show's latest tragedy.  He'd watched Dana Plato, Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman grow up on the set.  He knew all the tsouris that went on behind the scenes.  He could see all the trouble up ahead for these three, and it haunted him. A few minutes later, my brother John called.  "Can you believe it?" "So sad," I said.  An actor back in the day, he appeared in several episodes of "Diff'rent Strokes."  Excuse me, starred in several episodes -- living proof that it pays to have connections.  My brother's Emmy-worthy guest spots are all  part of family lore now.  At gatherings,  my cousin Andy likes to call out, "Delivery for Mr. Drummond," the line John immortalized on the show.  RIP, Gary Coleman.  I'll miss your chubby cheeks.